Transitional Difficulties in Post-16 Education: Moving from GCSE to A Level studies

Cort, Carol (2017). Transitional Difficulties in Post-16 Education: Moving from GCSE to A Level studies. EdD thesis The Open University.



This research investigated transitional difficulties identified by learners moving from GCSE to A Level studies. A small-scale exploratory case study approach was used drawing on the principles of Grounded Theory. Research was bounded in the sixth form of a secondary school in Cambridgeshire. The sample included 147 participants aged 16-18 years. This was a purposeful sampling method including approximately 61% of the target population. 80 participants completed a questionnaire generating quantitative data, 40 participants completed a further questionnaire generating qualitative data, 19 participants took part in focus group meta-planning activities and discussions and 8 participants took part in individual interviews.

My epistemological position takes an integrated approach using positivist and interpretivist perspectives to generate knowledge through the breadth, depth and richness of data collection and analysis. My ontological assumptions for this research are based on critical realism, triangulation and mixed methods approaches.

Findings from integrated results using a mixed-methods sequential exploratory design (adapted from Ivankova et al. 2006) identify themes emerging from the data providing a variety of causes of transitional difficulties identified by participants when moving from GCSE to A Level studies.

Quantitative results were analysed using Complex Chi Squared non-parametric inferential statistical test. With 40 degrees of freedom and 0.005 level of significance, the critical value of chi squared (from the data) was 284.331 which was greater than the stated value of 66.766 Therefore, the results were significant. This means that the data gathered from the questionnaires does show that participants have experienced transitional difficulties when moving from GSCE to A Level studies.

Qualitative data was analysed using a constant comparative method to identify themes emerging from the data. Responses were noted, compared, coded and categorised in a systematic way, compared further and put into responding groups based on the emerging themes.
Results found there are both internal and external factors that contribute to transitional difficulties for learners moving from GCSE to A Level studies. These highlight issues that can inform policy and practice to improve transition and educational outcome and identify areas for further research.

Viewing alternatives

Download history


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions

Item Actions